• Uniting Workers for Social and Economic Development

To commemorate the International Workers’ Day, Ayodeji Ake and Sunday Ehigiator, who sampled the opinion of some workers, report on the need for employers of labour to do better for their employees, especially with the 2019 theme centred on uniting workers for social and economic advancement

Every May 1, Nigeria marks its International Workers’ Day. This year is no different. Tied around ‘Uniting Workers for Social and Economic Advancement’, this year’s event will be marked today across all states of the federation. Also notable is that workers in Nigeria will take the day off in observance of the workers day.

For workers, it’s a day to bring their demands to the front burner. While the day is set aside to celebrate workers, it also provides an opportunity to demand for better welfare and working conditions.

About International Workers’ Day

According to Wikipedia, the International Workers’ Day, also known as Workers’ Day, Labour Day in some countries and often referred to as May Day, is a celebration of labourers and the working class that is promoted by the international labour movement which occurs every year on May 1, an ancient European spring festival.

The date was chosen by a pan-national organisations of socialist and communist political parties to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886. The 1904 Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace”.

The first of May is a national public holiday in many countries worldwide, in most cases as “Labour Day”, “International Workers’ Day” or some similar name – although some countries celebrate Labour Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States, which celebrates Labour Day on the first Monday of September.

FG’s Declaration
Expectedly, the Federal Government has declared Wednesday, May 1, as public holiday to celebrate the 2019 Workers’ Day. The Minister of Interior, Lt.- Gen. (Rted) Abdulrahman Dambazau, who made the declaration on behalf of the Federal Government, congratulated Nigerian workers on their commitment and sacrifice toward building a greater Nigeria.

Dambazau who made the announcement in a statement issued on Monday in Abuja by Mrs. Georgina Ehuriah, permanent secretary of the ministry, commended workers’ effort at ensuring the full implementation of the policies and programmes of government through efficient and effective service delivery to Nigerians and foreigners.

While calling for continuous support of Nigerian workers in government’s effort at re-positioning the economy and moving it to the Next Level, he also commended them for keeping faith with the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration’s resolve of building a better Nigeria.

Nigerians Speak

Barring her mind about the day, an Optician with Peak Eyecare, Dr. Priscilla Oseahumen said: “I think the new minimum wage is a welcome idea. But when you are being elevated to a higher level, your take home pay is not so elevated, the problem lies there. I think the higher level workers won’t be so happy about this as it it would only significantly be affecting low income earners. I only hope there is an even percentage increase across all levels.

“Let’s imagine this. Let’s say in 10 years time, will N30,000 be okay as minimum wage? Do you think this our government can do better than this? I think the government right now will be feeling like they have done the masses a very huge favour hence might not really see the need for any increment again. In the real sense though, the government has tried but can be better. Trust me, the government we have in our country will not do any better than this new minimum wage in five years time, then comes another trouble. But sincerely, I hope they do better.”

Luqmon Balogun from Voice of Nigeria said the new minimum wage is a good development, though long awaited. He said: “It is an obligation by the government at all levels to cater for its teeming staff by way of encouraging increment of salary at intervals and prompt payment of workers. So, it’s a welcome development.

“What is expected from the government, particularly state and federal is to be consistent in the payment and to ensure continuous review of the minimum wage. Also, it must design a feedback mechanism to gauge the level of compliance by the private sectors who also form part of the agreement.”

Also lending his voice to the recently increased minimum wage, Mbadugha Kingsley of Backdesk Innovative Solutions said it’s a good initiative as this would help the underpaid workers earn something better.

He added, “I think the government should set up a body to monitor and ensure that companies adhere to this policy. They can start by requesting for employment offers given to staff in their organisation, and also announce a fine for any company that fails to follow the policy. Pending the date the policy is made, companies should be given at least two months to implement this new policy, after which, any company found wanting will have to pay fine and then make up for the payment to the staff involved.

“Also, I want the government to take the issue of worker’s security more seriously. In some parts of the country, workers don’t sleep with their two eyes closed, and this will affect their productivity. Generally, Nigeria is insecure and not safe at the moment, let government step up its security apparatus.”

Goddie Ofose, a journalist with Star Fm and public analyst, said the minimum wage should have taken effect three years ago, “but like they say, it is better late than never. That said, we understand that the so-called minimum wage is for federal civil servants and by extension, states that can pay. Be informed that some states are still unable to pay the current N18,000 minimum wage, therefore, it is a no brainier that some state governments may not be able to pay.

“The N30,000 minimum wage will only make sense if it won’t trigger inflation. Federal Government should therefore devise a good strategy that will cushion any negative impact that may be generated by the N30,000 minimum wage. Obviously, market women, transporters and other sectors of the economy will receive this news and react according. As always the case, landlords, basic food materials and transport operators will react negatively.

“So, I expect government to reassure Nigerians and providers of the essential services and goods of support in order to stem off negative reaction. Subsequently, government should engage leaders of these groups and even ensure basic transport system owned by government are put in place before minimum wage is announced”.

For the CEO of La’ Duchs Fashion House, Dorcas Odogwu, it’s a great step to building a better Nigeria. She added that the government needs to do more. “The standard of living in Nigeria is high. The new wage is a bit low considering the hike in transportation, price change of food commodities due to high cost of production, increase in house rent, school fees and clothing.

“A citizen who earns N30,000 cannot conveniently contribute to the development of the country. How can a country provide basic amenities when taxes are not paid in a country where the masses are more than the capable hands? I believe the government can do more than increasing the new minimum wage. On my expectations from the government; they should ensure it’s a consistent and growing process to making Nigeria better. It shouldn’t end with the current administration.

“Small medium enterprises should be given room to grow and organisations involved in skill acquisition should be used as tools to empowering the workers and unemployed youths so as to create more income and job opportunities. The government can partner financial organisations that provide loans (capitals) for start-up businesses in order to make the loans accessible to SMEs or the workers with interest payable.

“Start-up businesses or SME’s are vital to the financial growth of any country. The government should also explore other viable sectors that can provide financial growth, freedom and job opportunities”.

Olite Magdalene of the Bank of Agriculture said her expectation from the government is that they should create more job opportunities, as well as also improve the working value of Nigerian workers.

Tobiloba Babayemi of Primera Credit Micro-finance Bank was of the opinion that the minimum wage of N30,000 is not applicable in the Nigeria of today. He said: “Government should ensure the workers in Nigeria are at least comfortable. Nigeria is fast losing young and good hands to foreign countries. This should stand as a national concern to the government.

“Creating more and better employment opportunity would go a long way in curbing crime; especially, cyber-crime as a lot of youths including graduates are now endangered and at the mercy of cyber-crime to survive, due to lack of jobs. There must be an immediate rescue effort from government to create job, because this goes along way to dent our image to international communities”.

For Mr. Jide Oyediran, an accountant, his expectations from government include the fact that Nigerian workers deserve more recognition and motivation, welfarism and disposable income of workers.

There are things that enhance standard of living of citizens which the Govt. needs to fix. The new minimum wage cannot enhance the standard of living if; the cost of living in the country is still high, basic social amenities such as healthcare, transport, electricity,foods, housing, etc are not fixed, the rate of inflation is still high, hence devaluation is an issue on this minimum wage, palletives for workers are not available, and if some states may still struggle to pay and meet up with this wage, hence may lead to huge debts on respective state and resultant effects on the workers.

Mrs. Taiwo Olokungbemi, a business developer, her expectations from the Nigerian government this year is that healthcare delivery will show signs of life from its current state by providing dedicated funds in treating chronic debilitating diseases and emergences.

“Moreover, I expect the government to increase the budgetary allocation to health and education, and also provide free drugs for patients. So, I am looking forward to see a marked improvement in the provision of health facilities and services so as to limit the number of deaths in the country in general. Secondly, government should provide basic needs like water, electricity, education and more job opportunities.

“According to research, deficient school curricula and poor teacher training have contributed to the failure of educational institutions to provide their students the appropriate skills to make them employable. Government should provide more teachers and try to give them a proper training as well as trying to increase there salaries too.
Furthermore, utilities (water, electricity and gas) are essential services that play a vital role in our economic and social development. The problem facing the power sector is huge and it requires concerted efforts of the Federal Government and the stakeholders in the power sector to fix it permanently.”

Pam Dusu Mercy, a market researchers from Jos, Pleatue State said: “I expect the government to take concrete steps to reduce the number of out of school children because poverty has actually increased the number of children out of school. The government should also pay more concern on health issues, they should dedicate funds for terminal diseases and emergencies. The government should increase the scale of development because that’s the only way to open up the economy and attract local and foreign investments. On the new minimum wage, it will not enhance the standard of living rather it will lead to increase in prices.”

Mr. Lawal Abidemi, a civil engineer said this year would go down as one of the best celebrations for workers due to the new minimum wage bill of N30,000 that has been signed to law. He however posited that Nigerian workers deserves more in terms of welfarism. “Government must put in place a conducive environment for workers to give their best by making affordable low cost housing available with a long term payment plans (mortgage).

“Also a good transportation system and where necessary, a reasonable car loan should also be put in place. Continuous and qualitative refresher courses should be encouraged for Nigeria workers to keep abreast of latest developments in their chosen career and improve on productivity. Last but not the least, quality health insurance policy must be put in place for Nigeria workers”.

Mr. Akanni Azeez, a development planner in Abuja lamented that the “apparent incompetence of this government in the handling of affairs of governance has continued to take a huge toll on the nation. There is no evidence of the presence of government in this country as crimes of all kinds are committed all over the country and Nigerians have never lived in such great fear and trembling for their lives.

“Also, N30,000 minimum wage is long overdue. With the minimum wage at N18,000, states are owing and unable to pay. States like Kogi (30months) and Osun State (modulated salary of 50 per cent). How can they pay N30,000? I don’t think it will have any significant impact in the standard of living of Nigerian workers”.

While the annual workers day has proven a veritable platform to celebrate workers, the onus also lies on government and employers of labour to do better in order to ensure better efficiency.